Oct. 1, 2012
By Kevin Rawlinson
Political activists must watch what they say on the likes of Facebook and Twitter, sites which will become the “next big thing in law enforcement”, a leading human rights lawyer has warned.
John Cooper QC said that police are monitoring key activists online and that officers and the courts are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to social media. But, speaking to The Independent, he added that he also expected that to drive an increase in the number of criminals being brought to justice in the coming months.
“People involved in public protest should use social media to their strengths, like getting their message across. But they should not use them for things like discussing tactics. They might as well be having a tactical meeting with their opponents sitting in and listening.
“For example, if antifascist organisers were discussing their plans on social media, they can assume that a fascist organisation will be watching. Social media sites are the last place you want to post something like that,” he said.
Mr Cooper QC’s warning comes after a New York court ordered Twitter to hand over messages posted on the site by a demonstrator belonging to the Occupy Wall Street movement in America. Malcolm Harris, 23, is accused of disorderly conduct after he was arrested on Brooklyn Bridge during a protest last October.
After a lengthy legal fight, Twitter eventually complied with an order to hand over the tweets on 14 September. Prosecutors hope to use them to disprove the demonstrator’s defence that police escorted the protesters on to the bridge before arresting them for allegedly blocking it.
Addressing the possibility of similar cases arising in the UK, Mr Cooper QC said: “The police are aware and are getting more aware of powers to force and compel platforms to reveal anonymous sites.” He cited the case of Nicola Brookes, in which he succeeded in forcing Facebook to hand over details exposing the identity of an anonymous online bully.
Mr Cooper QC added: “activists are putting themselves at more risk. Police will be following key Twitter sites, not only those of the activists but also other interesting figures. They know how to use them to keep up with rioting and to find alleged rioters.
“In the same way they used to monitor mobile phones when they were trying to police impromptu raves, they are doing the same with Twitter and Facebook, as those who say too much on social media will find.”
But some activists are trying to overcome that naivety. In London on Saturday, former members of the Occupy encampment outside St Paul’s Cathedral – among others – were among the 130 people who meet technical experts for lessons on how to keep themselves safe online. The so-called “Cryptoparty” was part of a global movement to arm those who want to carry out protests online with the skills to maintain their anonymity.
Full Article Here – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/activists-warned-to-watch-what-they-say-as-social-media-monitoring-becomes-next-big-thing-in-law-enforcement-8191977.html